The year 1966 marked the anniversary of one of the most important events in English History: the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion, events which changed life in England forever. But 1966 was also the 40th anniversary of another event, much less important, but one which changed the lives of many children forever. It was the anniversary of the publication of Winnie the Pooh.
In honor of this anniversary, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, Ernest Shepard, was asked to create a design for a book bag. Mr. Shepard, by then 87 years old, came up with this design, wonderfully commemorating both events, which just shows that people really do get smarter as they get older. He lived another ten years, too.
The design is based on the Bayeux Tapestry, which the Bishop of Odo commissioned in 1070 to commemorate his half-brother, William’s conquest of England in 1066. It is wonderful, too, and worthy is study.
The Homeschool Teaching Summit 2.0 this March 2-6, 2020 will bring you exclusive, Christ-centered encouragement, parenting help, and homeschool-life-balance guidance from 25 top speakers — all for absolutely FREE, available anywhere online: HomeschoolSummits.com/Teaching.
Once again I am honored to be a speaker on their upcoming Online Summit . I’ll be speaking on “Teaching Children to Teach Themselves.”
I was introduced to this book by my young friend and fellow bibliophile Kaitlyn, who kindly wrote this review of it for us.
“If someone asked me to find a children’s book on how to start a business, I probably wouldn’t think such a thing existed, and if I did, I wouldn’t think to look for a picture book, but that is precisely what Once Upon a Company is.
It’s a true story about the author’s three young children who took their holiday break boredom, and did something productive, fun, and beautiful. The book is written from the point of view of the author’s son, Joel. When he was seven he and his two sisters started a company making wreaths and selling them to neighbors, saving the money for college. They found that they liked running a business, so the next summer they opened a lemonade stand at an art fair.
Joel and his sisters ran into various difficulties, but through some ingenious problem-solving, perseverance, and elbow grease they managed to succeed in starting several successful small businesses.
One great thing about this book is it’s a disguised trove of business terms and phrases. Each one is written in capitol letters, and defined in a glossary in the back of the book. Which makes this book not just a fun story, but very educational too.
Another aspect of the story that I really love is how their family works. The kids own the business together, their mom and dad teach and pitch in, the grandparents do the same. Their aunts and uncles make connections for them and suggest next steps. Working at the lemonade stand looks so fun they start “acquiring” new employees. Then they opened up a wreath shop in town, and little by little, the whole community begins to get involved in the little business. It’s a beautiful picture of what can happen when people are excited about what they do.
Though Once Upon a Company glorifies college somewhat – The College Fund Wreath Company is their company’s name -it has a refreshing attitude toward education. The kids want to learn, and they want to work. One big message in the book is, “Work can be fun!”
This is an excellent book, and one I’d recommend for all ages; it’s a heartwarming story, educational, and inspiring. Sadly, it’s out of print, but there are used copies available.
Elizabeth and Mary, Cousins, Rivals, Queens, by Jane Dunn, Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
When people make foolish life decisions it’s usually a matter of years before all the fall-out is obvious, a course of events we want our daughters to avoid, of course. That’s why you may want your older daughters to read this book: because reading about someone else’s mistakes is much smarter than making your own.
However, because these queens were not storybook princesses, but real, flesh-and-blood women, Elizabeth and Mary covers some material not found in books on the Homeschool Mom’s usual approved reading list. Stuff like sexual desire, infidelity, and murder, so I hesitated long and hard before writing this review. But as it doesn’t talk about anything the Bible doesn’t, and doesn’t talk about any of it explicitly, salaciously or gratuitously, I decided to go for it.
Comparing the upbringing and outcomes of these two famous queen’s lives, Elizabeth and Mary is history, not historical fiction. It reads almost like a cautionary tale, for if there was ever a princess who threw caution to the wind, followed her heart, and crashed and burned, it was Mary, Queen of Scots. And if there was ever a princess who denied her own desires, used her head, sought and followed wise counsel even when it ran counter to her own wishes, and lived a long and successful life, it was Elizabeth.
This book is about historical figures who lived in a time and place far removed from our own, yet it’s personal enough and relatable enough to be interesting even to older teen-aged girls. Boys could profit from reading it too, but most probably aren’t interested in books about princesses.
In addition to showing what happens when a person makes foolish decisions, or wise ones – and you see the results in days rather than years – Elizabeth and Mary introduces the reader to several of the major players of the Reformation: Henry VIII, Charles V, Catherine de Medici, Phillip II, and John Knox (though he’s not presented very sympathetically.)
But the best part is the example set by the young Elizabeth. Growing up in the treacherous atmosphere of the English court (especially dangerous for her as a teenager when her Catholic half-sister, Bloody Mary, was on the throne) she learned that working hard at her studies, keeping her eyes open, her mouth shut, and avoiding interaction with the wrong people was her best means to ultimate success.
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George, 1959, Dutton
Perhaps this is one of those “blemished” books because I don’t know that homeschoolers recommend it much. I wonder if that’s because it is usually described as the story of a boy who ran away from home. (Which is why it almost didn’t get published.) Well, the main character, Sam Gribley, did leave home, but it turns out his parents knew where he was and they let him do it.
My Side of the Mountain is another of my favorite books from childhood. And as I reread it recently I found it just as delightful as I did 50 years ago, and loved it as much as I did 30+ years ago when I read it to my children, who also loved it.
In my review of Swiss Family Robinson I mentioned a genre of fiction I have dubbed “scientific fiction.” Like historical fiction only based on science. This book might just go in that category.
Sam Gribley was a boy who lived with his large family in a crowded New York City apartment. He left home, with his parents’ knowledge and permission, to see if he could live off the land on his great-grandfather’s homestead in the Catskill Mountains. The difficulties he faced – finding a place to live, finding food, making clothes for himself – and his ways of overcoming them, make for a great story.
And it’s a very educational story; in it you find yourself learning about all kinds of wild foods, how to get them, and how to cook them. Freshwater mussels, cat tails, spring beauties, dandelions, crayfish, Jack in the Pulpit, puffballs, watercress…the list goes on and on. The book shows how to build traps for rabbits and deer, how to tan the deerskins, how to make salt from hickory bark… Sam’s neighbors are a duck hawk he caught and tamed, named “Frightful,” a weasel, raccoons, flying squirrels, as well as the more common birds.
And Sam succeeds in his mission – he makes it through the winter, successfully living off the land. But in the end he lets himself be found, realizing that he misses the company of human beings.
But, some gentle readers will ask, is it a Christian book? Well, that depends on how you figure it. I came across a biography once called Mary Todd Lincoln – the Christian. Turns out the author categorized her as a Christian because of the frequent use of God’s name in Mrs. Lincoln’s letters. Hmmm…if that makes someone a Christian there are a lot of them on the internet.
Well, the Bible says we judge a person by his fruit. So for Sam Gribley what do we get? There’s no profession of faith, no mention of praying. However, like the majority of people a couple generations ago, Sam does appear to have a Christian Worldview: he appears to love and honor his parents, has a high regard for the truth, doesn’t steal, and is hospitable.
My Side of the Mountain is a book I think anyone would enjoy and learn from, and it’s a book that doesn’t require any editing of language or bad attitudes. It’s one of the few works of fiction I’d pass as entirely safe to hand to a child to read to himself. But it’s a lot more fun to read it aloud and enjoy it together!
There are two sequels, written much later, which to me, lack the charm of this first book. I’m not going to review them; I don’t want to reread them.
Do you throw away an apple because it has a bruise? Most likely not, if you’re a homeschool mom. You cut off the bruise and eat the good part. That’s how it should be with books: you eliminate the problematic parts and consume it anyway. But I knew one HS mom who thought if you encountered anything unacceptable, however small, you should get rid of that book. Just toss it.
A different friend of mine, but one with the same mindset, changed her mind about reading The Wind in the Willows to her children when Mole threw down his paintbrush and said, “Bother! O blow!” Hang spring-cleaning!” She considered that cursing. Others won’t read a book unless it was written by a Christian. Some reject fiction altogether, or picture books in which the animals wear clothes.
That leaves precious little fiction to read which is worth reading. (And yes, I think some fiction is worth reading.) There are few flawless books (really only one) and the recent children’s books which have been written scrupulously avoiding anything slightly objectionable and chock-full of multi-culturalism and every kind of political correctness make dismal reading.
Do we have to be so thin-skinned? Can we learn to extract the precious from the worthless? It’s easy when you read a book aloud – just omit the parts you don’t want your children to hear. Better yet, read it as it stands and explain what’s wrong with it. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss with your children ideas that differ from scripture. Your children will encounter these ideas someday; discussing these kinds of things while on your own turf and when you’re there to interpret is an opportunity you should not avoid.
This fall, I’m honored to be a featured speaker with Homeschool Summits for the Homeschool Parenting Summit, a free event hosted online this October 22-27. You can watch my interview on Saturday, October 27th at 9 AM CST. I hope you’ll join us! You can register now at https://bit.ly/2RBGSIM.
Raising children well is one of the most important things you will do with your life -it’s not an easy job- when you add the demands of home education it can quickly become overwhelming.
There is good news, though! There are plenty of principles in the Bible on how to successfully raise children, and that’s what the Homeschool Parenting Summit is all about. It’s a free week-long event coming October 22-27, 2018 designed to help you focus on God’s simple plan for family discipleship and inspire you in your faith and give you valuable insights on raising children who love God and others.
Join me and over twenty other speakers, and our hosts, Daniel & Megan, in video sessions focused on five key topics:
Foundations: Start things off right, from your own self-discipline to unity with your spouse on your family’s mission.
Child Training: Reach the heart of your children with Gospel-motivated love, truth, and consistency.
Relationships: Pursue healthy conflict resolution and friendships between parents and siblings.
Challenges:Overcome rebellion, media, and technology with a biblical perspective.
Launch: Leverage the power of discipleship to propel young adults for marriage, work, and a life of service to Christ.
The entire event is free if you sign up by October 22nd, and in addition to the video sessions, you’ll also get access to an online vendor hall (with exclusive discounts and freebies), live daily devotions to help you set your heart on God’s plan for parenting, and a private Facebook group to connect with speakers and other attendees.
You’ll walk away from the Homeschool Parenting Summit with renewed hope and faith, and an arsenal of strategies for building a joyful family that loves God wholeheartedly.
I encourage you to sign up and join us! You can register for free (for a limited time only!) at https://bit.ly/2RBGSIM
It’s often hard to get kids interested in history; they just can’t see any connection between people who lived long ago and themselves. This book is a good one for helping young people see that connection.
Diary of an Early American Boy is based on an actual boy’s diary from 1805 which Eric Sloane, the author and illustrator, found in an old house. The diary is the record of the sixteenth year of Noah Blake who lived with his parents on a farm in Connecticut.
This book is based on an actual historic diary, it’s not one of those fictional “diaries” that have flooded the teen fiction market whose main characters strikingly resemble today’s teens in their self-absorption. Sloane did take some liberties in padding out the journal entries, but it’s his explanations, and most of all his wonderful illustrations – based on actual facts about how people lived and thought in 1805 – that make the diary come alive. Because Sloane is that wonderful combination of historian and artist who doesn’t just tell you how things were in long-ago times, he shows you.
A few of the things Sloane shows the reader in this book are: how maple trees are tapped and the sap boiled down to syrup, how bridges were built, how people kept warm in unheated church meeting houses in the winter, how grain was ground, how mill-wheels worked, how food was stored, how cider was made. There are too many to list.
Some will want to know if this is a “Christian book.” Well, that depends on what you mean by that. Noah Blake never refers to God or prays and there’s no expression of his faith. His family’s way of life certainly reflects Christian values but that was usual at that time. He obviously honors his parents. The family goes to Sunday meeting and reads the Bible. In summary, there is no disrespect of God, Christians, or the Bible in this book, so I thinkit’s safe to say the Blake family had a Christian worldview, at least.
I love this book. In fact, I love all Sloane’s books, but the three I like best are this one – Diary of an Early American Boy , A Reverence for Wood, and A Museum of Early American Tools. My boys loved these three books so much that they read them to pieces and I had to keep buying new copies.
After several years of this (and after used books became available on the internet) I learned that you can get our three favorite Sloane books bound together in one hardback volume that won’t fall apart called Sketches of America Past. Used, of course, because it’s out of print. This was a popular gift book about 30 years ago and there are scads of them on the market, cheap.
There are two different publishers: Amaranth Press gives you a fancy imitation-leather binding with gold stamping and a pretty picture on the cover. Right now, that one ranges from $5 to $10, including shipping. The other publisher, Promontory Press, gives you the book with a tasteful scholarly cloth binding and paper dust jacket at about the same price. Either way you get all three, hardbound, for about half what it would cost to get one of these titles new in paperback.
This is a great time to buy books! Never before in the history of mankind have so many books been available, and thanks to the online used book market, never have they been available so cheaply. Take advantage of this to invest in your children’s minds! Invest in your grandchildren’s! Bibliophiles of the past like Thomas Jefferson, who bankrupted himself by buying books, (they were costly then) would never be able to believe what we have available today.
So buy books! Buy them used, buy them hardbound. Build a library for future generations!
“One of the most engaging works of American historical scholarship…”
“An unputdownable narrative…”
“A tale of adventure and intrigue so vivid and so colorful that it sometimes reads like a thriller rather than a historical monograph…”
I found Paul Revere’s Ride to be all these things and more. For me, it ignited a love of American History which has never gone out since I first read it 12 years ago.
As a product of the government schools I actually graduated fromcollege knowing almost nothing about the history of my country. This is the book that helped me see history as a fascinating, richly intermingled tapestry of peoples’ life stories and experiences stretching back as far as the written word, and further.
I love this book. My first time reading it when I came to the end, I didn’t want it to be over! So I started reading it to my youngest sons aged 10 and 12. They loved it. They would beg me not to stop reading, “No, Mom, you can’t stop there, you have to read just a little more!” They were so eager to know what would happen next that I had to hide it from them. It was great.
I’ve never found a book better at infecting the reader (or listener) with an interest in learning about the past. And since as a homeschool mother, this is exactly what you are trying to do, this is a book you must know about! It’s a perfect springboard into study of the War for American Independence and the Colonial Period. It introduces many of the cast of characters: Sam and John Adams, James Otis, Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty. More importantly, it introduces the events that sparked the conflict: the Stamp Act, the Townsend Act, the “Intolerable Acts,” the taxation without representation which so frustrated the colonists, and finally, the seizure of their arms. And explains these events in a way that helps the reader understand why the colonists were upset enough about the situation to go to war over it.
I love the way Paul Revere’s Ride paints a picture of Colonial life: the attitude the colonists had toward their work, (something shameful to the British) the interest they took in the way they were governed, the interest they took in their laws… The interest they took in everything, really! They were alive to what was going on in their world in a way we would do well to notice and emulate.
Most of all I love the way this book teaches the reader what it really meant to be an American, and the more Biblical worldview and attitude toward work, equality and freedom that went with being an American back then.
Paul Revere’s Ride is one of my most highly recommended books; perfect for high-school-age readers. For a younger audience I’d start by reading it aloud, then leave it lying around and see what happens. If it disappears you know you hooked someone! (If it doesn’t, keep read it aloud to them.) And when they come asking for more books like this, try Fischer’s sequel, Washington’s Crossing.
This spring I’m honored to be a featured speaker with Homeschool Summits for the Homeschool Fitting-It-All-In Summit, a free event hosted online this April 30-May 5. You can watch my interview on May 2nd at 9 AM. I hope you’ll join us! You can register now here.
If you ever feel like you’re overwhelmed by all the choices and activities that come your way as a homeschool parent, then this is for you. It’s a week dedicated to helping you decide what matters to your family, create a workable homeschool plan, and keep your path centered on the eternal – even in the midst of a bustling family life.
Most importantly, each video from this event will focus on the truth found in God’s Word and the hope that lies in trusting in Jesus Christ for today and for the future.
All of the video interviews with speakers (like myself) bring a Christ-centered focus to these important steps on your way to learning how to fit it all in:
Charting Your Course: Learn how to change your perspective to match God’s view as revealed in His Word.
The Homeschool Gameplan: Get insight into academic necessities and how to make sure they can realistically work out in your homeschool.
Home Management Strategies: Find out how to keep household duties running smoothly in the midst of schooling, and come away with specific action items to make changes beginning tomorrow.
Building Your Team: Discover the beauty of a family working together to build God’s kingdom and how to keep relationships healthy for maximum joy from parents down to little ones.
Eternal Priorities: Reorient yourself to stick to the mission of following Christ, leading your children to Him, and influencing others for the Gospel
The entire event is free if you sign up by April 30th, and in addition to the video content, you’ll also get access to an easy-to-search online vendor hall (with exclusive discounts and freebies) and a private Facebook group to connect with speakers and other attendees.
I encourage you to sign up today for the Homeschool Fitting-It-All Summit for a week of valuable wisdom and Christ-centered hope so you can conquer your homeschool overwhelm.
Learn more and register for free (for a limited time only!) here.